A Pouting Grimace is the audacious new release from pianist/composer Matt Mitchell, whose prior release Vista Accumulation (Pi 2015) The New York Times calls “a bold signature” that “simmers with deep intensity.” Not only is he one of the most in-demand pianists in jazz – Mitchell plays in bands such as Tim Berne’s Snakeoil, Steve Coleman’s Natal Eclipse, the Dave Douglas Quintet, John Hollenbeck’s Large Ensemble, Jonathan Finlayson’s Sicilian Defense, Rudresh Mahanthappa’s Birdcalls, and David Binney’s Quartet — he has established himself as a composer of bold distinction. Substantial in scope, the album, which features twelve musicians: five woodwinds, four percussionists, harp, bass, and the leader on piano, Prophet 6, and electronics, weaves an intricate web of off-kilter rhythms and logical frenzy. Produced by the acclaimed guitarist/composer David Torn, the work is completely beyond genre, a daring tour de force that headily mines the interstice between precision-plotted compositions and the thrill of improvisation.
Matt Mitchell, a 2015 recipient of the prestigious Doris Duke Impact Award, is one of the most in-demand pianists in jazz. As a member of Tim Bernes Snakeoil, the Dave Douglas Quintet, Rudresh Mahanthappas Bird Calls, John Hollenbecks Large Ensemble, and the Darius Jones Quartet, among many others, he has played an integral role on a number of the most critically-acclaimed releases of the last few years. Highly regarded for bringing contemporary classical music influences to his playing, his debut as a leader, Fiction (Pi 2013), a duo with drummer Ches Smith, was described by All About Jazz as “… huge quantities of brain candy, akin to a shot of adrenaline that will keep the willing listener on the edge of his or her seat.”
A hip session from Blue – one that points the way towards some of his later work on Blue Note, and which features a larger than usual group arranged by Jimmy Heath. As on some of Heath's other projects from the time, the groove is tight and soulful, but never so dominant as to overwhelm the soloists. Mitchell's the main player, of course – but the rest of the group features work by Heath, Pat Patrick, Jerome Richardson, and Wynton Kelly. Tracks include "A Sure Thing", "West Coast Blues", "Hootie Blues", and "Hip To It".
Recorded live in Burghausen, Germany in 2007, Far Side features journeyman avant-garde saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell and his ensemble the Note Factory performing in a concert. Joining Mitchell here are trumpeter Corey Wilkes, pianists Craig Taborn and Vijay Iyer, bassists Jaribu Shahid and Harrison Bankhead, and drummers Tani Tabbal and Vincent Davis. Beginning with the epic three-part 30-minute suite "Far Side/Cards/Far Side," the concert is an atmospheric and cinematic mix of Mitchell's longstanding musical touchstones including free jazz, European classical music, and modern creative group improvisation. Tracks such as the fragmented and atonal "Quintet 2007 A for Eight" and the similarly inclined "Trio Four for Eight" have the feel of composed classical music while evincing a more freely improvised aesthetic. This is often achieved by juxtaposing bowed cello and bass parts against improvised piano and sections where each musician seems to interject a melodic idea into an overall harmonic theme. There are moments of layered percussion, expansive atonal soundscapes, and fiery and combative moments between Mitchell and Wilkes as well as windy, drawn-out passages that tilt upon silence. If you're a hardcore Mitchell aficionado and/or fan of ECM's cerebral jazz catalog, Far Side would be a stellar addition to your library.
This specialty album is of particular interest for audiophiles and for anyone wishing to calibrate their precious sound system and speaker placement. This is a great Setup and Test recording, packed with expertly chosen music cuts, test tones, instrument resonances, stage perspectives, noises and a system burn-in track, in HD format, to help properly set up and enhance your system; a must have tool to help tweak your system for maximum performance.